Just yesterday I blogged about my skepticism that opening government data will fundamentally change the picture as far as citizen engagement and participation is concerned. I know there are differing opinions on the topic and I do agree that more data is better than less.
Earlier today I’ve come across an article from Nextgov about the sixth annual Personal Democracy Forum started on Monday in Manhattan, which “generally gave the Obama administration credit for moving the transparency ball forward” with Jeff Jarvis advocating transparency by default.
According to the article, a representative from the Sunlight Foundation stressed that private sector sites are improving very rapidly and the gap with government sites is widening.
Now, why do I have a sense of deja vu? Haven’t I heard these same remarks five or even ten years ago, when consultants, software vendors, system integrators were saying that government lags behind on its online presence? Government executives took this so seriously that in some cases they have been competing against each other for the best web site, the highest position in some official survey, the coolest award ceremony. But then, how comes that the most frequently asked questions I get from clients are “How do I improve uptake of my web site” or “How do I justify past and future investment on my e-channel”?
It seems to me that governments incur the same risk today. How about building the coolest possible alternative to Data.gov so that country X will be judged better than country Y? What may happen is that rather than throwing web pages and e-services to citizens who don’t seem to care about them much, various jurisdictions start throwing masses of data to them, assuming that they (i.e. the people) will use them: and what if they don’t?
I wonder whether all this is going to ultimately benefit the usual suspects, such as IT consultants, product and service vendors, system integrators, external service providers who help clients restructure, revamp, reignite their web presence with a better government 2.0 flavor.
How do we know it’s not going to be just government 1.0 redux?